Select Committee on European Scrutiny Thirty-Second Report




COM(02) 37

Amended Draft Directive on measuring instruments.

Legal base:Article 95 EC; co-decision; qualified majority voting
Document originated:6 February 2002
Deposited in Parliament:22 February 2002
Department:Trade and Industry
Basis of consideration:EM of 12 March 2002
Previous Committee Report:None; but see (21628) 11492/00: HC 23-xxix (1999-2000), paragraph 4 (15 November 2000)
To be discussed in Council:June 2002
Committee's assessment:Legally and politically important
Committee's decision:Not cleared; further information requested


  4.1  Measuring instruments include petrol pumps, beer glasses, meters for water, gas and electricity and, in the field of public protection, evidential breath analysers and exhaust gas analysers. At present, such instruments are regulated on a national basis. In September 2000, the Commission adopted a proposal to introduce harmonised regulation of measuring instruments, covering a huge market which the Commission estimated at about 10% of Community GDP, with the utilities sector for electricity, gas, water and heat meters accounting for about half of that.

  4.2  The previous Committee left the proposal uncleared in November 2000 pending further information on the concerns and uncertainties expressed by the (then) Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Competition and Consumer Affairs at the Department of Trade and Industry (Dr Kim Howells). These included the status of the proposed Measuring Instruments Committee (MIC), the need to clarify any possible implications for the use of instruments, such as evidential breath analysers and exhaust gas analysers, used in law enforcement procedures, and, more generally, the implications of the proposal for the public procurement directives.

  4.3  The previous Committee noted, amongst other things, that the proposal to harmonise regulation of measuring instruments should prove beneficial for manufacturers.


The document

  4.4  The document is an amended proposal from the Commission for legislation, to be known as the Measuring Instruments Directive (MID), which seeks to harmonise the regulation of measuring instruments. As under the initial proposal, the amended text specifies a list of measuring instrument categories currently widely regulated in Member States. The effect of the proposal would be that, if a Member State wished to continue to regulate any of the instruments on the list, the instruments would have to comply fully with the technical provisions of the MID. Member States would have the option not to regulate categories or types of instruments on the list.

  4.5  The approach should enable Member States to match current practice within a European framework of legal metrological control across a wide area, including consumer protection, fair trading, public health, public safety, or other reasons. The justification for the proposal is to enable manufacturers to design products for a European Single Market based on the MID standards or alternatively to operate in an unrestricted market in those Member States where the instruments in question remained unregulated.

  4.6  Under the MID, the UK will accept instruments approved in accordance with the requirements of the MID in other Member States. This has obvious economic advantages to manufacturers.

  4.7  The method of regulation proposed would depend upon the type of instrument, but would generally consist of an approval stage for the design or type of the instrument, followed by a verification stage for each instrument which may be either under self-verification by the manufacturer or by a third party (Notified Bodies authorised by Member States).

  4.8  The proposal would have effect only up to the stage of placing the product on the market and putting it into use. It does not include any obligation on Member States to ensure that regulated instruments continue to remain in compliance with the MID when in service. Continuing compliance may be a key requirement, for example, for consumer protection or public safety, but that would remain a matter for national legislation in each Member State.

  4.9  The proposal includes arrangements for a Standing Committee, the Measuring Instruments Committee (MIC), to be able, amongst other things, to modify the specified requirements for measuring instruments as set out in specific annexes.

  4.10  The proposal includes transitional arrangements for instruments approved under existing national legislation.

The Government's view


  4.11  In his Explanatory Memorandum of 12 March 2002, the Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Science and Innovation (Lord Sainsbury) says that the Government is broadly in favour of the proposal because of its potential for removing or reducing barriers to trade in the measuring instruments field without the need for increased prescription in the UK. He adds:

"Concerns exist in relation to instruments used by public authorities of the legality of including customer requirements which are over and above the essential requirements of the Directive. This is the case for evidential breath and exhaust gas analysers however, these issues are being addressed ..., and a satisfactory outcome is expected although nothing can be assured.

"Regulation will be harmonised so that manufacturers will be able to obtain a single 'European approval' for each type of measuring instrument. However, manufacturers indicate that they will need in some cases to design for both the regulated and unregulated markets.

"Effects on UK law will be deregulatory insofar as the Directive will allow alternative modes of conformity assessment not currently available to manufacturers and provide a wider choice of Notified Bodies both in the UK or other member States from which manufacturers can request Notified Body tasks to be performed.

"Insofar as measuring instruments are regulated, the Measuring Instruments Committee will be able to modify specified requirements from the instrument specific annexes etc. The powers of this committee have now been amended such that for these technical changes a regulatory procedure is in place with the power vested in the member States through Qualified Majority Voting and not with the Commission.

"As the MID solely covers instruments placed on the market and put into use and not the control of instruments in service the use of existing powers will be necessary to effect the additional ongoing legislative control."



  4.12  As the previous Committee noted, this is a potentially important measure in terms of establishing the basis for a Single Market in a significant area, where the public is totally reliant on effective regulation. The previous Committee also noted the Government's concern about the status of the Measuring Instrument Committee, the need to clarify any possible implications for evidential breath analysers and exhaust gas analysers used in law enforcement procedures, and the implications for the public procurement directives.

  4.13  As regards evidential breath analysers, the Government's view is that preliminary investigations show that other Member States also generally require high standards of accuracy and reliability for such instruments, so harmonisation should not cause any reduction in the standard of results. However, the Minister adds that the measuring sequence necessary to secure a conviction may differ from Member State to Member State, not least because the drink driving limits vary. The problem is that this sequencing appears to be outside the scope of the Directive. We note that the Minister is seeking to have this aspect of the proposal made clearer, and that negotiations are continuing.

  4.14  As regards public procurement, the Minister told us that it has yet to be established what rules or conditions, if any, might apply in relation to the use of approved measuring instruments.

  4.15  We leave the document uncleared until the position on the concerns identified above has been clarified.

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